OF POSITION AND POSTURE
With the ever-looming possibility of a snap General Election and seven months to go until the London Mayoral and Assembly Elections, anyone running for office is in full campaigning mode.
Today’s edition covers much of the latest news from London’s various, interlocking political campaigns, from Sadiq’s new manifesto consultation, to the announcement of Rory Stewart’s mayoral election bid, Sian Berry’s bombastic conference speech, and the latest disputes disrupting Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) selection processes.
Beyond party politics, we take a look at the usual rich mix of stories, from the latest round of XR protests, to high-profile property deals, the NHS estate, national planning reforms, people moves and more!
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SADIQ'S BLANK SLATE
Last week, the Mayor launched a consultation on his Manifesto for the 2020 London Elections, calling on party members, supporters and trade unionists to ‘have their say’. In each of the consultation document’s eight five-page sections corresponding to specific policy areas, about two pages are dedicated to photos of Sadiq, a whole page to ‘a summary of what Sadiq has done’, a withering half-page to ‘what the Tories have done’, and half a page each to ‘suggested areas for consideration’ and ‘questions for consultation’. To take the section for Housing, Planning and Development as an example, suggested areas for consideration include maxims like ‘London needs greater powers and investment from national government to truly fix the housing crisis’. The corresponding question for consultation reads ‘what further powers need devolving from Government to meet London’s needs?’ With a full seven months to go until the election, it is perhaps unsurprising that the consultation does not yet contain much detail about Sadiq's intentions, but the clock is ticking - and Londoners will begin to expect a more concrete set of proposals, sooner rather than later.
RORY WALKS... INTO CITY HALL?
Former Conservative leadership contender and MP for Penrith and The Border, Rory Stewart, has livened up next year’s London elections, by announcing that he will stand down from Parliament and run as an Independent candidate for the Mayoralty. Stewart, one of 21 Conservative MPs to have the whip withdrawn last month after voting against the Government, has penned an ‘open Letter to Londoners’ in which he says that the answers to London’s problems ‘are not rocket science’ (but keeps his proposed solutions mostly under wraps). His announcement generated a remarkable amount of media coverage, but many have wondered whether in reality he poses more of a threat to the Conservatives’ and Liberal Democrats’ vote share, rather than Labour’s. In any case, other candidates have been quick to respond. Conservative Shaun Bailey cautiously welcomed any and all-comers who can take Sadiq down a notch, but criticised Stewart for seemingly focusing on Brexit rather than crime. Lib Dem Siobhan Benita said that Stewart’s support for Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement ‘won’t cut it with voters’ in London. For her part, Green Sian Berry asserted that Stewart was not a ‘serious contender’ and that the Mayoralty is not a role for politicians to ‘dip into when they are at a loose end’. For the time being, Stewart has been continuing his #RoryWalks rambles, popping up in Bromley-by-Bow, Barnet and Brixton over the past few days.
Independent candidates have had mixed results to date. Former Mayor Ken Livingstone of course technically stood as an Independent in 2000, achieving 39% that year, though this is most definitely an exception. It would perhaps be more fair to attribute the best result achieved by an Independent candidate to Siobhan Benita, who received 83,914 votes (3.8%) in 2012. Other Independent Mayoral candidates have achieved between 0.2% and 0.5% of the vote.
The Green Party’s Conference took place in Newport, Wales over the past weekend. With both party co-leaders being London Councillors, there was little doubt that the capital would figure prominently. In her keynote speech, party co-leader, Camden Councillor and London Assembly Member Sian Berry spoke in her capacity as Mayoral candidate. Berry took the novel approach of first recounting to delegates what a Green Mayor would have done if elected in 2016. She would have done things such as scrap the Garden Bridge and Silvertown Tunnel tout suite, start campaigning for rent control powers ‘from day one’, implement estate regeneration ballots ‘straight away’, welcome the Extinction Rebellion protests with open arms, and oppose expansion plans from all of London’s airports. We were also interested to hear Berry pledge that a future Green Mayor would work to force the ‘abolition’ of the City of London Corporation, create a new ‘public Bank for London’ and lobby for the devolution of more powers to the GLA, spanning the private rental market, air quality and planning.
ON OTHER CANDIDATES
The Lib Dems have selected businesswoman Nicola Horlick to contest the seat of Chelsea and Fulham at the next General Election. Horlick has a fairly high profile and was dubbed ‘superwoman’ in the 1990s after she caught the attention of the media for balancing a high-profile career in a male-dominated field with raising a large family. The constituency’s current MP is Tory Greg Hands, who has a majority of 8,188.
Meanwhile, Labour has suspended two aspiring Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) for London seats, following internal investigations into serious – though still unclear – allegations, reportedly relating to sexual harassment. Leader of Redbridge Council Jas Athwal, a candidate in the now-paused Ilford South selection process, has strenuously denied the accusations against him and is actively contesting his suspension. He has been backed by the Black and Minority Ethnic group of Labour MPs and sitting MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting, among others, asserting that his suspension is politically motivated. Over in the Cities of Westminster and London constituency, Steven Saxby – who was already Labour’s PPC – has also been suspended from the Party following similar allegations, which he also strongly denies.
THE RETURN OF EXTINCTION REBELLION
Extinction Rebellion kicked off its planned ‘Autumn Uprising’ fortnight of disruption on 7 October. Over the first couple of days, protestors blocked roads around the Houses of Parliament and other Government buildings as well as Westminster and Lambeth bridges, before a Section 14 was imposed on 8 October, requiring protestors to limit their activities to the pedestrianised area around Trafalgar Square or face arrest. This represents a much tougher approach from the Met, after they came under some criticism during a previous round of protests in April, for failing to remove protestors fast enough. Over the first two days of street action, just under 600 activists have been arrested, with the Met having requested help from other police forces. While the protests have been peaceful, the blocking of some roads enabling access to St Thomas’ Hospital has generated some concerns. According to reports, the group now plans to occupy City Airport for three days, from 10 October.
Earlier this week it was ominously reported that the ever-increasing likelihood of a no deal Brexit has led to investors withdrawing money from equity and property funds at an accelerating rate. According to the Financial Times, ‘investors have pulled money from active equity and property funds for four consecutive quarters' – with money being pulled back to the tune of £3.5bn in Q3, up from £2.2bn in Q2. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as one company alone, M&G Prudential, announced on Monday that it will invest £875m to buy and fund the so-called ‘Gotham City’ 34-storey office development at 40 Leadenhall, in the City. Another company, Monaco-based Redd, has purchased a £100m portfolio in Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Belgravia.
CAPCO SEES THE LIGHT?
Meanwhile, over in West London, it appears that the long-stalled Earl’s Court development may well be on the cusp of coming unstuck, in yet another sign that the London property market is far from stagnant. According to several reports in the press, Delancey, CK Asset Holdings and Canary Wharf Group are in the final round of bidding to purchase the site from Capco. Then again, for any new owner it won’t be plain sailing, as Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Cabinet recently resolved to ‘proceed with the next stage’ of a Compulsory Purchase Order to forcibly acquire 8.2 hectares of the 31 hectare site. That said, the realisation of such CPO remains at least a year off (if everything goes according to the council’s plans).
The Design Museum has announced that Tim Marlow (currently Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts) has been appointed its Chief Executive and Director. He will succeed co-directors Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black beginning January 2020.
Newham Council has announced the appointments of Jessica Crowe (currently of Sutton Council) as Corporate Director of People, Policy and Performance, and Jamie Blake (currently of Barnet Council) as Corporate Director of Environment and Sustainable Transport.
Brent Council has announced that Shazia Hussain (currently at Tower Hamlets Council), has been appointed Assistant Chief Executive. She will formally join Brent in January 2020.
Planning law specialists Town Legal LLP has announced that Louise Samuel (currently head of planning at Linklaters) joins the firm this week.
As reported in last week’s edition of LDN, the Government has launched a new National Design Guide, which ‘sets out the characteristics of well-designed places’ and creates a new national standard for local planning authorities. It is interesting to note that the policy continues to make waves this week, as it is picked apart by architects, to mixed reactions. On one end of the scale, Architects’ Journal Editorial Director Paul Finch has reportedly described it positively, as the ‘nearest thing to a National Architecture Policy, we are going to get’. Somewhere in the middle, RIBA President Alan Jones cautiously welcomed the guide, while arguing that it is ‘undermined by the proposal to extend Permitted Development Rights’. Others yet have found little to commend in the document, such as LCA client Richard Dudzicki, of RDA, who asserts that ‘very little good design or successful placemaking will fit in this dull, grey, pragmatic framework’. The guide evidently builds on the work of the Building More, Building Beautiful Commission set up by former Communities Secretary James Brokenshire – though it has yet to publish its final report, which is expected later this year.
Meanwhile, think tank Policy Exchange (which has done much to influence Government policy in this area), has just published a new essay collection on ‘building more beautiful homes and places’, with the blessing of Housing Minister Esther McVey, who provided the foreword and plugged it in an article for The Times.
MOUNT VERNON CRUMBLING?
The Guardian has reported on a review of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, commissioned by the NHS East of England region, which reached the distressing conclusion that its facilities and estate are ‘dilapidated and not fit for purpose’. The Guardian’s article highlights the fact that the specialist hospital in Hillingdon (located close to Boris Johnson’s constituency), is not one of the six hospitals the Prime Minister has said will be rebuilt over the next five years, with a £2.7bn injection of capital funding. LCA has long been involved in NHS estate renewal work and our experience tells us that the process of getting even those six hospital projects off the ground will be a challenge. LCA client Paul Sawyers, Director of HKS London, fully agrees. In a new piece for Architects’ Journal, Paul welcomes the Government’s pledge to fund the construction and refurbishment of hospitals up and down the country, while laying bare the challenges posed by procurement models currently available for large capital projects in the health service.
Britain is set to have its first ‘locum MP’ as a replacement for Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, while she is on maternity leave for seven months, from November until May 2020. The role is the first of its kind in the UK, as MPs on parental leave have to date had their responsibilities taken over by office staff. In this case, the ‘locum MP’, according to the job advert, will ensure ‘the casework, campaigns and community concerns of the residents of this special area are not neglected’ and will be ‘rooted in Walthamstow not Westminster’. The locum MP will therefore not be permitted to speak or vote in the Commons, though Creasy will still technically get a vote via the proxy voting system introduced earlier this year, specifically for MPs on maternity leave. Creasy is one of several MPs who have campaigned for these changes, writing in The Guardian earlier this year that the status quo meant she was being ‘forced to choose between being an MP and a mum’.
EVENING STANDARD PROGRESS 1000
The Evening Standard last week published this year’s Progress 1000, a list of London’s most influential people, which was launched at an event at the Design Museum attended by our Chairman Robert Gordon Clark. The list of course included a number of prominent local government politicians and officials, from Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan, to Conservative Leader of Westminster City Council, Councillor Nickie Aiken, and TfL Commissioner Mike Brown. And from the wider world of property, we were pleased to see a number of LCA clients and associates featured in the list, including:
- Collette O’Shea, Managing Director, London portfolio, Landsec
- Craig McWilliams, Chief Executive of the Grosvenor Estate
- Jace Tyrell, CEO of the New West End Company
- Peter Murray, Chairman of the New London Architecture
- Professor Tony Travers, Director of LSE London
- Roger Madelin, Head of Canada Water development (and previously King’s Cross)
- Tony Pidgley, Chairman and founder of the Berkeley Group
LCA OUT AND ABOUT
The team has been keeping up a busy schedule of events and appearances, of which there seems to be an ever-growing number this autumn! On Friday, our Chairman spoke on Shelagh Fogarty’s LBC programme, weighing in on Rory Stewart’s bid for the Mayoralty. Over the weekend, we attended the first NFL game to be hosted at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The atmosphere was incredible and we are excited to see what the ten year partnership between the Club and NFL brings next. We were also at the Mayor’s first Homes for Londoners Conference, which was attended by a number of local government leaders - and were especially impressed with Camden Leader Georgia Gould’s candid account of her borough’s needs and plans for the future. Looking ahead, our calendars are jam-packed with events in the coming weeks. LCA Director Gabriel Abulafia will be at the MIPIM UK Summit on 14-15 October, while our Chairman is billed to speak at Centre for London’s London Conference on 5 November.
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LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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